Scientists are often in the news complaining that governments are not doing enough to solve environmental problems, especially the problem of climate change. But some scientific stonethrowers own houses may be made of glass. In the latest issue of Environmental Science and Technology, staff scientist Evan Mills of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory writes that the practice of science is often less than sustainable. Many laboratories are energy hogs, up to 100 times more energy-intensive than conventional buildings, according to Mills, and unnecessarily so.
The point is not to play gotcha, as the blogosphere has done with tales of Al Gore’s prodigious home energy consumption. Rather, this study is one more reminder that energy use is often a hidden cost, built into the design of buildings and ingrained patterns of behavior, and paid in this case by universities or granting agencies. Even those who sincerely want to reduce their carbon footprint need the right institutional support, incentives, and information.